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Margaret Maughan (19 June 1928 – 20 May 2020): Britain’s first Paralympic gold medallist has died

May 20th 2020
Vicky Sartain

Margaret Maughan, Britain’s first Paralympic archery gold medallist, has died aged 91.

Margaret Maughan, who died on 20 May, was paralysed in a car accident in Malawi in 1959 but took up archery as part of her rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire in the care of Dr Ludwig Guttmann. The neurologist became the founder of the Paralympic Movement, pioneering the use of sport in rehabilitation.

Margaret was selected for the 1960 Paralympics in Rome and won two gold medals – in archery and swimming –  before going on to compete in four further Games. In 2012, she lit the flame at the London Paralympics opening ceremony.

Margaret once said that she never liked sports when she was at school, and it wasn’t until after her accident that she discovered archery, which she credits with helping to improve her posture. In an interview with the Financial Times in 2012, she said: “Archery is brilliant. When you first use a wheelchair you haven’t got any balance. Archery makes you stretch out and sit up straight.”

Margaret witnessed the very beginnings of Paralympic sport, and how difficult things were logistically at that time. At Rome’s inaugural Paralympic Games in 1960 she remembered the army having to be brought in to help carry competitors up and down flights of stairs to their accommodation.

Nick Webborn, British Paralympic Association Chair, said: “Although her passing is extremely sad, the fact that she lived until the age of 91 is testament to the work of Sir Ludwig Guttman who transformed the care of people with spinal cord injury, and that through sport people with disabilities can enjoy rich and fulfilling lives.

“Margaret, we thank you and salute you for all that you did, and although we will miss you tremendously, we will never forget you.”

Martin McElhatton OBE, Chief Executive of Wheelpower, said: “Margaret was a shining light and a wonderful example to other disabled people of how to live a full and active life after a spinal cord injury. Margaret’s sparkling personality and verve meant she was unique and special to so many people.”

You can read the full BBC report on Margaret Maughan here.

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